When you hear detox you may associate it heavily with more systematic or professional methods, more specifically those that take place in rehabilitation centers such as the ones in West Virginia Drug Rehab. However, today we’ll be looking at the science of how our body regulates and detoxifies itself.
We are exposed to 6 million pounds of mercury and 2.5 billion pounds of other toxic chemicals each year. Eighty thousand toxic substances have been released into our environment since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and very few have been tested for their long-term impact on human health. As you may have guessed, the results for those that have been tested aren’t all that comforting.
How can we not be affected by this colossal amount of toxic substances? According to the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group, the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood, imagine how much you’ve been exposed to in your life thus far.
Perhaps this is the reason we’re so sick as a society. The simple truth is that we are exposed to many toxins on a regular basis and its destroying our bodies and brains. The role of toxins and detoxification in health has been, for the most part, ignored by medicine for some time now. Luckily, scientists and practitioners are beginning to recognize its relevance to our health.
Many of you may have symptoms of chronic toxicity that you don’t label as being toxic. If any of these sound familiar, keep in mind that detoxifying might be critical for you to get healthy and feel balanced again:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Excessive sinus problems
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Food cravings
- Water retention
- Trouble losing weight
- Skin problems
- Bad breath
In a healthy body, the process of detoxification runs smoothly. When we are toxic, though, the mechanism for detoxification in the liver gets sluggish, and certain toxins can remain active longer than we want or than our systems can handle. This makes us sick and impedes normal metabolism. It also causes fluid retention, bloat, and puffiness.
If you are overweight, you may be considered toxic by definition because most environmental chemicals like pesticides and plastics are stored in your tissue. As you lose weight, you need to flush out the toxins that get released from your fat tissue. Otherwise, they can poison your metabolism and impair weight loss.
Weight and obesity aside, nearly every disease on the planet has links to toxicity, including dementia, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and digestive issues.
Just How Toxic Are You?
There is no question that you are toxic. Everyone is. The issue becomes how toxic you are.
To understand toxicity, you must understand the concept of total load, or a total amount of stressors on your system at any one time. Think of total load like a glass spilling over with water. It takes a certain amount to fill the glass and then, after a certain point it overflows.
When our detoxification system becomes overwhelmed and overloaded, we start developing symptoms and get sick, but it may take years of accumulated stress and toxins to get to that point.
The total load includes things like:
- Heavy metals, mercury and lead, petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers
- Food allergies, environmental allergies, molds and toxins from molds.
- Our standard American diet (SAD)
- Stress — the mental, emotional and spiritual toxins that affect us; isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, hostility— which all translate into toxins in our system
- Medications can sometimes be toxins; often we need medications, but the reality is that most of us are over-medicated and use medications for things for which there are better solutions such as lifestyle and diet
- Internal toxins, like bacteria, fungus, and yeast that are inside our gut and may be affecting us, as well as hormonal and metabolic toxins we need to eliminate
Now why aren’t we all sick given this incredible load of toxins? Because each of us is genetically and biochemically unique, which means some of us are good at getting rid of toxins and waste while others are not.
Some will develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is what happens when an individual becomes overloaded with mercury and can’t get rid of it because they are missing a critical detoxifying enzyme for mercury. But by learning to support their system and learning how to detoxify, they are able to cure themselves from what we thought was an incurable condition.
The foundation of your diet should be high-quality protein, fats, and non-starchy vegetables that don’t spike blood sugar or insulin. These are the types of foods that detoxify your body but also reignite your metabolism, calm body-wide inflammation, crush cravings, and fill you up.
Thankfully, plants have evolved many protective defenses against pests and infection, called phytonutrients. Many of these also help human biology to function better, especially in the realm of detoxification. These defenses are better developed in organic foods because they must work harder to survive.
Eating organic food provides higher concentrations of these protective detoxifying, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds may outweigh the benefits we can get from other nutritional supplements in their overall effects on our health. And they taste better!
These are the detoxifying foods to be sure to include in your diet as often as possible, preferably daily:
Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, arugula, radishes, wasabi, watercress, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips. Eat at least one to two cups, cooked, daily.
- Detoxifying and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, including turmeric, cayenne pepper, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, cumin, sage, oregano, onion powder, cinnamon, coriander, cilantro, paprika, and parsley
- One to two cups of green tea a day boosts liver detoxification.
- High-quality sulfur-containing proteins or foods, including eggs, garlic (a few cloves a day), and onions.
There are many detoxification pathways, or routes, for toxins to get out of the body. But these pathways require many helpers. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, special nutrients, and a whole range of phytonutrients from the foods noted above are needed for our detox system to function optimally.